Protecting Your Personal Financial Information (PFI)

Individuals and SMBs (Small/Medium Businesses) look to the Financial Services Industry to help them invest in their economic futures. Managing funds and controlling monetary risk are what these financial professionals do, yet sharing your information with a financial specialist has an amount of risk itself.

What types of information are shared? When accounts are opened or transferred as an individual or SMB, personal identifying information is inevitably transmitted between you and your financial services representative (and sometimes their support staff). This information includes and is not limited to:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security Number
  • Account Numbers (e.g. when doing a rollover or transferring banks or credit cards)
  • Date of Birth
  • Employment History and Income
  • Current Assets and Portfolio information

Much of this information is done in person or online via a secured website, but often SMBs and individual clients look to their brokers, account representatives and customer service personnel to answer specific questions to their accounts. More and more, these information transactions take place electronically.

How can client information be at risk if the paperwork is taken care of safely in person or via a secured web process? Personal financial information (PFI) can be compromised as a one-on-one relationship with your financial services professional grows and builds. Sometimes connecting with a financial services firm is done on the phone, other times via email. It’s the security of email communication between client and firm/organization where your PFI is put at risk.

A quick question or message sent off to a financial services organization appears to instantaneously pass from your computer to the recipient’s inbox. In reality, email messages make transitory stops along the way. As emails are directed by proprietary servers to their final destination, messages which arrive at each of these stops are often stored, and sometimes copied or even scanned before being sent on to their final destination. Email security goes beyond being aware of the current phishing scheme, where unscrupulous data thieves pose as someone from your trusted financial institution. Information interception isn’t just about who forwards your message on, but is also about who may seize that message when it’s en route.

Financial firms though guided by government acts, restrictions and guidelines sometimes don’t appear to have concrete policies when dealing with email between client and the firm’s employee. Compliance and risk officers to who manage the firm’s policies must deal with nuances outlined by Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. Each of these governmental mandated policies dictate how your personal financial information (PFI) is handled digitally, but don’t delineate the best method of PFI protection.

Andy Purdy, acting director of the National Cyber Security Division of the Department of Homeland Security in a February 2006 interview with CNet/News.com identifies the importance in protecting PFI and other important digital assets:



“I think consumers and small businesses and large enterprises and the government are all important when trying to reduce the cyber-risk. We’re trying to raise awareness with partners of the responsibility and techniques consumers can use to help secure their systems.” (1)

A client’s PFI is a commodity which can be bought and sold on black market data warehouses. Digital thugs look to harvesting email information in a variety of means. What can individual clients and SMBs do to ameliorate the situation while staying connected to their financial services firm? Data encryption easily facilitated process of securing sensitive information like PFI. If one of these black market digital thugs happens to intercept an encrypted message (unless they have somehow gotten the encryption keys) they will not be able to decipher the message. If the email thug attempts to break any one of the commonly used encryption algorithms, they likely wouldn’t be able to do so within their lifetime.

Business owners and individual investors can work a lifetime to become financially successful and stable. Having sensitive information like one’s PFI at risk via email can shatter that financial stability.

Risk in communicating with these services can be contained through being aware of email risks, phishing scams and using encryption tools to secure financial communiqué. Though quite broad in nature, Financial Services in each of its facets as lender, investment manager or funding arm can take an additional step in their client’s economic success. Using encryption tools enables the individual client or SMB to stay in close contact with these stewards of their financial future.

– – – – – – – – –

End Notes:

1.) Joris Evers, “Newsmaker: Locking down America’s Net defenses” 16 February 2006, CNet New.com – http://news.com.com

Personal Financial Freedom

It is important for everyone to understand basics of personal finances and also effectively use them .

Any individual has two types of income . Assured income as well as income which is not assured.

Assured income is one which will keep flowing whether you are personally working or not . For example, Rentals, dividends, royalties , Interest , etc .

On the other hand income which is not assured is one which stops flows the moment you stop working. For e.g Paycheck, Bonus, etc ..

Similarly , there are broadly two types of expenses .Fixed and discretionary. Fixed expenses like , taxes, Debts, Insurance, household expenses , etc .

To achieve ” personal financial freedom ” we should be concerned about a Flow , which we can term as freedom flow . This is the difference between the Total expenses and the assured income .If the result is negative , then one can smell freedom . On the other hand if the result is positive , it implies continued imprisonment in the trap of debt.

There is a simple formula by which one can determine how long would a person take to achieve “personal financial freedom” .

N = Freedom Flow / AIOP x Plough back

Where , N = No of years required to achieve threshold of freedom .

Freedom Flow = Total expenses – Assured income

AIOP = Assured Income that can be generated as a percentage of the plough back. A 10 % conversion is a good reference .

Plough back = (total income) – ( total expenses ) . This is the money available for conversion to assured income .

To take an example, if for a person ,

Assured Income = $25,000

Total Income = $ 1,00,000

Total Expenses = $ 85,000

AIOP = 10 %

Then the plough back is $ 40,000.

So , as things stand , the number of years required to reach the threshold would be :

60,000 / .1x 40,000 = 15 Years .

Now , let us say the person is able to reduce his total expenses by 20 % and improve his AIOP to 15 %, then the number of years required for him to achieve threshold would be :

43,000/.15 x 57,000 = 5 years .

Such is the power of this equation , which essentially means that we should

Keep the freedom flow as low as possible . Increase income and reduce expenses .

Maximize AIOP

Maximize the plough back .

This formula , however does not take into account inflation . It is best to use this as an indicative tool rather than dissect it for accuracy .

Book Review – Financial Peace Revisited

Dave Ramsey’s last major book, “The Total Money Makeover”, has been a best seller for several years. It is his best book today. Also, it is one of the best book on personal finance out there. Prior to that book, the book, “Financial Peace”, was created as a self-published book. Then, it became a best seller and has been revised and revisited.

There is something soothing and calming about the title,”Financial Peace”. Everyone has a financial life- whether good or bad. Everyone (whether they care to admit) wants to have peace in their financial life. As mentioned on a constant basis by Dave Ramsey, personal finance is more personal than finance. There are a lot of emotions (and some logic) conjured up when you discuss personal finance.

It seems that most people handle their personal finance the same way they handle everything else in their life. There is a lot of complications, confusions, even negligence, indifference, good intentions, and other emotions and mixed feelings.

This book addresses many of those issues especially how money affects our relationships (and how our relationships affect our handling of money). The principles may seem simplistic such as KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)- but they are crucial in order to succeed in your personal finances. The principle of simplicity (or KISS) is primarily an issue of dealing with cash and not credit. When we live on a cash basis, then we do not have to worry about interest rates, finance charges, fees, etc. We have simplified our lives to the better. As Dave Ramsey would say, we do not have to worship at the altar of the almighty FICO score. This is also applicable to co-signing loans. When we co-sign a loan, we pretty much are taking over the burden of paying someone else’s debt. By keeping our personal finances simple, we are respecting the other person as much as ourselves.

Another key principle the book discusses is the power of contentment. Contentment empowers us to restrain from spending on things or stuff that we do not need or even care about. Being contented would allow you to have less stuff that you do not need but have more cash. The book discusses this principle extensively and vividly in order to allow you to succeed in your personal finance.

Also, money affects our relationships. It is critical and crucial to not borrow from anyone or anything especially (and most especially) from friends or family members. The close the relationship; the more crucial it is to not borrow from that person. Owing someone money changes all the dynamics of that relationship.

This is a good book to read on personal finances. When you apply the principles, you will attain that elusive financial peace.